When it comes to a conversation about sexual needs two questions usually
predominate: how often and when? But if we knew as much about our sexual needs as we did about our nutritional or financial needs, then our answers would be far more nuanced. Consider the thought experiment below.
Imagine the perfect sex life, perfect in every way. Your partner is perfectly your type and he’s as into you as you are into him. Good so far? OK, now that we have our perfect thought experiment going (and please not that it is perfectly free of any uninvited viral or bacterial guests), let’s play with this perfect sex life a bit so that you can learn a little something about yourself. This is going to be fun. Or terrifying. But remember: you get to choose your adventure.
In our thought experiment above you have a perfect sex life. Although your idea of perfection may not be for everyone, it suits you to a T. Everything you like and need to be having the perfect life is there. Now, could you please take out you lab tweezers and (careful here!) lift out all of the heart-pounding sense of adventure. There, you did it and so now you have the perfect sex life, but one altogether without any sense of adventure. There’s no risk whatsoever, no new scary moves or ideas, no cosplay, for example, that you don’t already know to be totally cool with your partner (or, if you’re GOP, your base).
Question: once we’ve taken out sexual adventure, is your perfect sex life (you know, the imaginary one that we started with) perfect anymore? It’s certainly safe. And maybe, yawn, a little boring. C’mon, admit it, a sex life with zero sense of adventure and no new risks whatsoever, is going to be boring. There’s a practical reason that boredom is the result: no risks means no new disclosures. No disclosure about your past (and that one time with that other guy who loved (really loved!) mechanical bulls. But it takes courage to share anything about ourselves that could invite jealousy, suspicion, or judgment from others. No risks and no adventure means no new disclosures about the present and how you feel about that one part of your sex life, maybe the one with too much or too little body hair (who knows?). No new risky disclosures about what you’re interested in trying sometime in the future either, like that fantasy calling for a pound of butter and something about pancake batter.
Past, present, and future risk taking are off the shelf because in the adventure-free version of your sex life there will be no intimate disclosures regarding your growth as a man, your new curiosity about anything , including sharing new feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. And because there’re no new disclosures the secrets start to stack up. You’ll become less known and less understood over time.
The truth is that we all do have a universal need for adventure. But often enough our reality, whether we choose to face it or not, is that we may have grown complacent or even cowardly—and our need for adventure goes unmet. This dearth
of adventure is actually another deal with the devil in that we’ve again settled for a status quo that seems safe (another legitimate sexual need) and now I’m merely phoning it in with my relationship. These two sexual needs, the need for adventure and the need for safety, exist in a sort of dynamic tension where, ideally and sustainably, both are acknowledged and both are met.
And what would getting our need for adventure look like? Well, the utter “wildness” of our sexuality would be so safe to express that our bedroom might become the littlest bit scary. So long as we’re talking and have established consent, we can let slip the veneer of civilization once the bedroom door closes. For some of us this may involve no more than no longer lifting our pinkie finger when sipping our tea. For some of us, certainly the naughtier types with a greater tolerance for and greater need of adventure, this may involve a 55-gallon drum of lube and at least one parachute.
Where we fall on a continuum that has sexual adventure at one end and sexual safety at the other is the crux of this neediness. The answer is both truly personal and truly idiosyncratic. Our answer is representative of that magnificent diversity that represents the range of sexual normalcy in our species. So, in other words, your tolerance of risk is a unique part of who you are. And yes, your tolerance can change in either direction. But the big takeaway here is that we all have these needs and that omitting consideration of our need for adventure leaves us open to extremes of relationship failure (boredom or terror). All of us interested in the pursuit of sexual happiness are going to have to have a talk, maybe even a
series of talks, in order to first interview prospective candidates for a leading role in our lives and then eventually, find someone who is comfortable with figuring out how we together might step more deeply into the swirling waters of sexual adventure over our time together.